Districts struggling to cover classes because of a lack of substitutes or because of uneven class sizes need to ensure they don’t interfere with a teacher’s protected planning period.
Classroom teachers are entitled to 450 minutes in each two-week period for planning and preparation in blocks of not less than 45 minutes. Texas Education Code §21.404 prohibits districts from requiring a teacher to participate in any activity that is not instructional preparation, evaluating student’s work, or planning.
A teacher may voluntarily give up a planning period for non-teaching activities if attendance is not mandatory. However, a district may not assign teaching duties during a planning period, even if the teacher agrees to the duties and receives additional pay. The only exception is if a teacher has more planning time than is required by statute. If that is true, a teacher may give up the surplus planning time to perform teaching duties.
This issue was addressed in a commissioner decision (Bledsoe v. Huntington Indep. Sch. Distr., Tex. Comm’r of Educ. Decision No. 033-R10-1103 (Sept. 18, 2014)). The commissioner held that districts are prohibited from assigning teaching duties during a teacher’s protected planning period, even if the teacher agrees to the duties.
In addition, the commissioner said a district can’t contract for teaching duties for monetary compensation outside of a Chapter 21 contract. If a district removes the duties, compensation can’t be reduced below the amount received in the previous year unless the district notifies the teacher before the penalty-free resignation date. This applies even if the teacher knowingly agreed to teach the class for only one semester or school year.
Additional information on planning periods is available in the HR Library topic Teacher Planning and Preparation and the TASB School Law eSource post Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Teacher Planning Periods.
April Mabry oversees HR Services training services, member library products, and the HRX newsletter. She has provided HR training and guidance to Texas public schools since 1991. Mabry was a classroom teacher for 11 years in Texas and Michigan.
Mabry has a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Michigan and certification as a professional in human resources (PHR) and is a SHRM-CP.
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